The first time I rode Johnny. His mane was long, he was underweight, but he was already awesome - truly, the best horse I ever rode.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” – Lao Tzu
Everybody is gone or going.
Not literally everybody, of course. But it feels that way. For me, 2012 and 2013 represent a high water mark of connectedness. In 2012, my family of Clemson friends was very intact and a good thing, too, because that’s when I needed them the most. So many people were there for me. One of the friends I relied on most heavily, Dinger, left for New Hampshire in 2013. Another one of those friends, Brenden, is about to move to Denver. His wife, Kate, instantly became one of my favorite people. My traveling compadres Alrinthea and Lisa, moved to Greenville and Chattanooga, respectively. Odd though it may seem to those on the outside, my frequent breakfast buddy Evan is on to new adventures, too. Sean went to Charlotte. The list goes on.
In 2013, I met a whole new crew of friends, the comedians. On the plus side, I enjoyed them thoroughly while they were here, but they’ve fled, too. Justin Thompson, Camilo Potes, Nick Shaheen, and Charlie Grey. All taken by Atlanta, as though it were a giant monster in the night, stealing away with the comedy children I’d come to love so much. When I learned Charlie was moving to Atlanta, I mourned the loss of him. Not just because I will miss Charlie, but because I will miss the era that is now ending. It was sad to lose Justin, Camilo, and Nick. I miss them all. But the loss of Charlie feels like a tipping point.
Of course, I haven’t lost any of these people for good. Even if they’re no longer in my town doesn’t mean they’re no longer my friend. I still see all of these people, some of them pretty regularly. But it is not the same. Dr. Seuss says, “Don’t be sad that it’s over, smile because it happened.” I am struggling to follow Dr. Seuss’s advice. For a long time, I was eager for change. I wanted a new job, a new life. And then I got that new life. And I liked it a lot. Loved it, in fact. And suddenly, I am not so eager for change. Change is a lot harder when you’re letting go of something that was good.
For a lot of people reading this blog, this next part may sound strange, because it’s not about a person – it’s about a horse. In October, I met a black Thoroughbred gelding I dubbed Johnny. I’ve ridden horses my entire life. I started showing at age three. I’ve been fortunate enough to work at some elite level barns, took care of and rode horses who had been short-listed for the Olympics. I’ve owned and ridden some great horses, but Johnny was my favorite. He is an exceedingly special horse. He was exceedingly special to me. When I met him, he was for sale and he eventually sold to someone else. He sold to someone else because I failed to sell the books I’d spent months working on. They may yet sell somewhere else, but the influx of money I was hoping to receive is not coming anytime soon. The failure of those books to sell was a significant disappointment. This might sound odd, but my main sense of loss is tied up in losing out on Johnny.
In early January, I learned Mama Cat, my oldest pet, has cancer. She’s still hanging in there. She has very suddenly gone deaf and she gave up bathing herself, but her appetite is still good. Even so, I know the end that is inevitable for us all is much closer for her than it is for most. Mama Cat entered my life in 1999, when I was still in college. She was feral. Evan and I trapped her because we saw she was pregnant. She really domesticated quite nicely and she wound up having Little Bastard. She is a sweet, patient, tolerant cat. She is also symbolic of another era.
When I went out to Charleston to write, I did exactly that. It was a very productive trip in a lot of ways. Coming back has been hard. I instantly realized I needed to get out of this house that I’ve lived in for ten years now. Hindsight is 20/2o and I find myself looking back over some of my decisions of the last two years and thinking perhaps I made some mistakes. Evan and I engaged in what was essentially a slow motion divorce. Some aspects of that method were definitely beneficial, working out logistics on the other side of emotion is a good idea. But on the flip side, I still have an attic full of memorabilia that needs to be gone through. I see now the benefit of ripping the band-aid off and taking care of everything quickly, of getting it done and over with. In the slow motion divorce, you deal with it again and again. And again. And again.
It’s not that I wish I was still married. Truth is, every time Evan and I see each other it becomes increasingly bizarre to us we were ever married in the first place. The nice thing is we can laugh about it. When we were married, there were so many things left unsaid, so many personality traits stifled. Now that we are free to be wholly ourselves around one another, it’s kind like, “How did that happen?” I’d like to think we’re both pretty decent people, and as such we make pretty decent friends. In this, I am incredibly fortunate. And yet, despite all of this intellectual knowledge, this peaceable resolution, divorce still sucks. It is painful. The feeling of rejection runs deep. Believe it or not, this segues back to the horse. Johnny, it seemed to me, liked me. I get that there are a lot of people who like me, who even love me. But as I said before, Johnny was special. I have trust issues, and there were so many times that that horse, had he been a normal Thoroughbred, would have behaved badly. Instead, he was good and brave, which made me good and brave. It’s not supposed to go that way, you know. The rider is supposed to create confidence in the horse, not the other way around. In the end, everything that the rejection of divorce does, working with Johnny did the opposite of that. And all of a sudden I find myself surrounded by artifacts of that rejection, including this house. So now, I too am going. Not far away, but I am going.
Everybody is going or gone.
There have been times in this process where I handled things really well, where I was strong and felt the living peace of faith. Now is not one of those times. This has been a time of mourning, weeping, throwing things away, it has been a time to die, to tear down, to give up. I don’t like it and I don’t want it. I hate feeling weak. It is my least favorite feeling in the world. It brings out all the worst in me. But this is where I am, whether I like it or not. And change is coming, it is almost here. I know there will be times of planting, building, laughing, dancing. A time of rebirth. There is a season for every activity under Heaven.
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.”
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, NIV)